If you watched the U.S. Open at Merion on TV last year you may have heard Phil Mickelson and his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay discussing something called the “Pelz-8” in an on-air conversation on Saturday’s telecast. Johnny Miller caught it from his perch in the broadcast booth and said, “I don’t know what ‘Pelz-8’ means, but they talk like this all the time. Mickelson seems to have—and use—a lot of ‘Pelz’ shots.”
Ever since Johnny made those remarks, I’ve been hounded to reveal just what Phil means when he refers to his “Pelz-8”. The requests have doubled since Mickelson’s epic win at Muirfield, so here you go!
The “Pelz” part of Phil’s “Pelz-8” refers to a swing I asked him to learn back in the winter of 2003–’04. The “8” is code for 8-iron, but the swing can be made with any club. It’s composed of a less than full backswing and produces slightly less distance and backspin. When Phil uses it, he stops his backswing when his right arm gets horizontal to the ground, as though the hour hand is pointing at three o’clock (as seen by someone standing in front of him; nine o’clock for someone watching a right-hander). He then swings back through at his normal pace.
The concept of controlling distance by controlling backswing length is one I learned years ago while working with Tom Jenkins and Tom Kite, and I’ve stuck with the technique because it really works. By stopping your backswing at a consistent position and swinging through with your normal rhythm (not faster to make up for a short backswing), you can develop amazing consistency in the distance your shots travel. Phil has learned to do this to an elite degree through diligent practice.
When Phil uses this “Pelz” swing with any of his five wedges (and even his 9-, 8- or 7-irons), he can usually fly the ball within one or two yards of his desired carry yardage. It’s like having an extra set of distances that he can produce on command depending on the wind, temperature and humidity. Phil uses this technique to create several good birdie opportunities every round. Give it a try the next time you visit the range. Make a few three-quarter (that is, nine o’clock) “Pelz” swings with a few different clubs and see how far the ball flies with each. Remember to use your normal swing pace on the way back down and through. Then go out on the course and see if you can’t get these shots close to the hole.